Dear Public Art Colleagues: We Stand With You
This has been a trying week for the public art field across the country. I have heard from many of you, expressing concerns and challenges as your communities turn to you for aide in addressing Confederate memorials and symbols in your public arenas. Please know that you are not alone in your work. The conversations and community meetings that have happened and will happen are necessary for our country to move forward. Your role is essential to your community, and we are here to support you.
“Congratulations, you have won our $1 million art award!”
I can honestly say that these are words I never expected to hear. Yet, in the summer of 2015 my team and I were lucky enough to be awarded a Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge grant. Having this much money felt almost ludicrous in its generosity. Finally, we could think big—very big. Like many longstanding critical urban issues, the ubiquity and apparent permanence of vacant buildings in our region has made it possible for us to ignore them. So, the question for us was, how should we go about drawing attention to these buildings?
What if no one shows up?
I started using birdseed to draw six-foot intricate designs on the ground in a futile attempt to arrest change and explore fragility in social situations. My first public artwork, Seed the Change, was a chance to scale up these explorations of labor, change, and collaboration in a monumental fashion. My hope for Seed the Change was that it highlighted the city’s human potential, creating a welcoming space shaped by its people that embodies the beauty of labors of love, conversation, and individual expression.
Midden Mound Wickiups
Two sets of wickiups—simple domed structures associated with Native Americans of the Southwest—perched at the top of a manmade mound of a repurposed landfill site—now Pearsall Park—invite you to take in an interesting 360-degree view of San Antonio. The wickiup structures suggest an overlay to the history of this site: a large decommissioned city landfill repurposed into a contemporary City Park. The landfill is our cultural midden; the artwork appropriates the site as a social and ecological comment on consumption.
Discovering Philadelphia with “47 Stories”
47 Stories reimagined Philadelphia's north-south-running 47 bus route, telling the stories of the immigrant and refugee communities that are connected from bus stop to bus stop. Through interviews, audio collage, alternative map designs, and a wrapped SEPTA bus, artists Shira Walinsky and Laura Deutch activated the public space of city transit in a new way. The goal was to make immigrant and refugee communities visible, to acknowledge and bring attention to their contributions to Philadelphia.
Tips for Arts Organizations Engaging Tech Communities
In a conversation on “How Tech Companies Think About the Arts” at the 2017 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Francisco, artists and arts organization had an opportunity to connect with philanthropic representatives from Silicon Valley companies to learn and exchange ideas on how to better engage one another. The key question: How can arts organizations partner with tech companies on a more personal, individualized level—turning employees into active community arts participants?
The Making of Trumpet Flower
Trumpet Flower was a labor of love, and at times it felt Sisyphean. In this case, the proverbial boulder was a horn-shaped monstrosity crafted from wood and steel, and the corresponding mountain was a six-story building which would support this towering artwork as it twisted up from the downtown Houston main street. Not only a feat of engineering and a marvel of craftsmanship, Trumpet Flower was also a great opportunity for community engagement. Taking Renner’s popular “painting party” activity to the next level, Flying Carpet invited the public to come make their mark on the sculpture, and Houstonians turned out en masse.
Amiskwaciw Wâskâyhkan Ihtâwin :: Community Engagement: Genius Loci of Place
For an artist, the initial concept for a public art project can be an exciting experience followed by anxious moments of uncertainty. Thinking of a concept that speaks to the public, while reflecting the values of your own artistic expression, is a challenging task. Questions preoccupied me as I conceptualized and created Amiskwaciw Wâskâyhkan Ihtâwin, a three-dimensional gateway/mural located in downtown Edmonton, Alberta. My awareness of Edmonton’s historic role as a gathering place for Indigenous peoples provided an essential clue to uncovering the essence of this special park.
Prototyping: Again, with feeling!
An iterative process is often useful, especially in the context of interactive public art: the collective public has a genius ability to subvert or repurpose objects and installations from their intended purpose. It can therefore be very helpful to periodically get something into the hands of someone who hasn’t been immersed in the project since its conception to see what they will do with it. Workshops with the communities that will ultimately be served by a project can serve as valuable de facto prototyping sessions as well.
Maine Arts Leadership Initiative: Quality Arts Education for All Learners by Focusing on Educators
I am exhausted after last week and thrilled about the accomplishments that happened at the seventh Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Summer Institute. Almost 70 teaching artists and pre-K through grade 12 visual and performing arts teachers spent three intense days in a collaborative learning environment. I am proud of these educators who challenged themselves on the topics of teaching, learning, and assessment. I am again reminded of the value of bringing arts educators together to form a community and delivering meaningful professional development!
Part to Part: Building “Under Magnitude”
Under Magnitude is a two-story tall permanent structure suspended in the atrium of Orlando's Orange County Convention Center that carves a three-dimensional impact into an otherwise vast space. The story behind the design and construction of the project is that it further evolves my invention of “Structural Stripes”: the fundamental premise of the studio to unite surface, skin, and space into a holistic and never-before-seen system.